Rural rhythms

The Cottage Garden and the Modern Country Garden have distinct styles giving a different atmosphere, or rhythm, to enjoy

It’s been three years since the Courtyard Gardens at RHS Garden Hyde Hall were planted and the difference in design is evident. The Cottage Garden is informal - curved beds full of lush planting waltz in swirls and swoops. In contrast, the contemporary Modern Country Garden has a stricter beat, with beds in blocks with straight edges, giving all the drama of the paso doble.

Cottage Garden at Hyde HallAs I walk into the Cottage Garden I’m struck by the height created by traditional favourites such as hollyhocks. They're dotted through with the bright pink flowers of Lavatera ‘Eye Catcher´ noticeable as I pass. Although the angelica flowers are finished, the plant still gives good structure.

As I look along the beds it takes a few seconds to take in the variety - there are more than 200 species! Lobelia x speciosa ‘Fan Lachs’ (Fan Series) is particularly striking with its red stems and pointed salmon-pink flowers. Herbs and vegetables also join the tune. Seeds of parsley and Swiss chard are sown directly. Sweet peas and runner beans swirl up wigwams in the middle of the beds.

Panicum 'Northwind' in the Modern Country GardenThe Modern Country Garden is a different setting altogether. The close planting of fewer species creates precise blocks, punctuated by the weeping, willow-leaved pear, Pyrus salicifolia var. orientalis ‘Pendula’.

Initially, the planting is fairly soft and airy with Thalictrum delavayi, Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ and Gaura sinuata. Gradually it becomes more formal with rigid yews set alongside the swirling cape-like grass, Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’. In the beds adjoining the hornbeam hedges, rows of dark green Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ stand to attention with a more miltary march.

It is certainly worthwhile taking time to visit the Courtyard Gardens and compare the romantic waltz with the strict tempo of a paso doble. Both offer great design inspiration to try at home.

Useful links

For more information on RHS Garden Hyde Hall Essex
For more information on different garden styles

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.